Jim "Kimo" West is one of ki ho 'alu's most unique talents. A virtuosic player and prolific composer, his delicate, heartfelt
playing technique and his generous output of new, exciting slack key guitar originals puts him solidly in a category of his own.

 


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Hawaiian slack key guitar (ki ho'alu) is one of the great acoustic guitar traditions of the world, dating back to the 1840's when guitars were first brought to Hawaii and relatively unknown outside the islands until recently. "Slack Key" means that some of the strings are slacked from standard tuning, with the bass, melody, and improvisation played at the same time, and is often played to accompany traditional dance or song. Many players use their own special tunings that often remain proprietary secrets.

Jim "Kimo" West first visited Hana, Maui in 1985, after a long summer on the road as guitarist for famed musical satirist, "Weird Al" Yankovic. As the sounds of Gabby Pahinui, the Sons of Hawai'i, Sonny Chillingworth, The Sunday Manoa, and others, played on the turntable, he jammed along for fun and relaxation. Already a devotee of open tunings, he was immediately drawn to the gentle rhythms of ki ho 'alu (slack key guitar) and soon began writing his own songs. The rich physical and cultural landscape of the Hana Coast has provided the inspiration for many of his compositions.

While always retaining the heartfelt essence of traditional slack key, Jim "Kimo" West brings much of his own musical heritage to his original ki ho'alu instrumentals. His style can best be described as "nahenahe", meaning "soft, sweet or gentle voice", a fusion of old and new but still rooted deeply in tradition.

Jim lives in Los Angeles where he writes and produces music for film and television. His music has graced feature films and TV shows on all the major networks and cable channels and his slack key compositions have been featured on National Public Radio, Honda TV spots as well as the Disney Channel . He travels regularly to the islands to perform, relax and visit with his "ohana". He also performs slack key concerts around the mainland US, especially in the Southern California area, and at selected private events.

"Jim West’s new recording continues his Slack Key explorations in his unique and beautiful style, and in various tunings, including two of his own invention, further accentuating his own sound"
-- George Winston. pianist/ guitarist

"James "Kimo" West captures the spirit and essence of ki ho`alu in his work - an extraordinary talent!"
-- Ozzie Kotani, ki ho 'alu master

"Slack Key West, Jim's latest album, is a record that is beautifully performed, written and recorded and shows Jim expanding the role of slack key guitar playing. It's been said often that there are really only two kinds of music; good and bad. Jim West makes good music."
-- Richard Bennett
Mark Knopfler Band

"Go West and you'll find slack-key paradise"
-- Wayne Harada, Honolulu Advertiser

"It is so refreshing to hear some original compositions that are unique, well crafted and sincere and from the heart... Varied and rich! I love all the tunes and have a hard time picking favorites."
-- Kapono Beamer, Hawaiian music legend

"Kimo West is able to transport his listener to a more simple time in Hawai'i with his music. A journey on the wings of ki ho'alu slack key guitar floating somewhere close to where the heart of the islands reside."
-- Kamaka Brown, producer, writer and Hawaiian Pidgin English storyteller

   
Photo: Kristine Slipson

 

Kimo talks about "Guitar Stories"

"Aloha Kauai" and interview, KVIC-TV